Fight over Mississippi medical cannabis gets airing in state’s high court

The saga of medical cannabis in Mississippi just won’t end, but we’re one step closer to knowing the fate of the state’s voter-approved medical cannabis provision, Initiative 65. 

The Mississippi Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments from lawyers representing Mary Hawkins Butler, mayor of Madison, an affluent suburb north of Jackson, and the Mississippi Secretary of State. 

Butler argues the initiative process outlined in the Mississippi Constitution is outdated because it requires petitioners to gather an equal number of signatures from five congressional districts. Butler says that’s a problem because Mississippi dropped from five congressional districts to four after the 2000 census.

Therefore, according to Butler, the signatures for Initiative 65 were not obtained properly, making the entire ballot initiative void. Attorneys for the Secretary of State, which approved the signatures, argue Initiative 65 petitioners simply followed the law outlined for the initiative process. 

The Mississippi Supreme Court will issue its ruling on the issue in the coming weeks. 

The previous efforts by Sen. Kevin Blackwell, R-Jackson, to create another medical cannabis program that would go into effect in the event Initiative 65 is struck down by the court were unsuccessful. 

Now, it’s “Initiative 65 or bust,” said Melvin Robinson, a founding member of the Mississippi Cannabis Trade Association. 

The Mississippi Department of Public Health has released draft regulations for the Initiative 65 medical cannabis program despite the ongoing lawsuit. You can read the proposed regulations here. 

Robinson said publication of the regulation drafts is a “good sign” for Initiative 65. 

“In my opinion, if they thought this wasn’t going to be possible, don’t think they would have jumped on it as quickly as they did. It’s a serious program. It’s going to bring a lot of things to the state, and a lot of people are going to be able to get medicine and relief. It will create a lot of business, which means more jobs.”

Under Initiative 65, the industry regulations must be finalized by July, with the program starting in August 2021. 

The Reckon Report.
Sign up to receive the Reckon Report newsletter in your inbox every Tuesday.